‘ Perma ‘ what? Permaculture. My daughter thinks it is a stupid word and asks if I can come up with another word for it. The automatic spell checker on my laptop does not know the word, and it automatically and again and again puts an ‘s ‘ in front of it, so the word seems to get a very strange meaning. The meaning is also not easily explained in one sentence but we manage to apply the permaculture principles more and more into our daily life.
I first came into contact with the word a few years ago, when I was looking for a place in Asia where we could volunteer during our holiday. On the internet, I came across many organic farms who were looking for volunteers. Often the word permaculture came up. First I thought it might be a translation for the Dutch ‘biologisch dynamisch’. I googled the word and came across many interesting websites and books. Also in the Dutch! The word permaculture is a merger of the words permanent (agri) culture, formulated by the Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren. They brought sustainable agriculture, landscape design and ecology together. Therefore, the meaning of the word cannot be explained in one sentence, there is so much in it! Bill and David explained the word by using 3 ethical principles and 12 design principles and designed a course to share and spread all aspects and knowledge of permaculture around the world. The most important thing is actually that you look at how nature works, and that you work with nature instead of against it. Think of diversity, mutual relationships, patterns, energy cycles, no waste and the fact that a problem is the solution. The methods and applications are endless, and certainly not limited to agriculture. The second part of the word, culture, and the 3 ethical principles, also indicate the fact that permaculture is a way of life. So you don’t need to necessarily have a piece of land or garden to apply permaculture.
My first book on permaculture however did have to do with gardening, ‘ permaculture in your vegetable garden’. Easy to read and well-applicable! And I recently discovered, during the intensive Permaculture Design Course, that I already, without being aware of it, applied all 12 design principles on my plot of land!
Perhaps in the long term, if we have more experience, we might offer courses in permaculture, but until then we want to share our knowledge by applying the principles ourselves and explaining them to others while working together in our forest garden.
The three ethical principles are: care for the earth, care for people and fair share.
The Twelve design principles are: Observe and react, capture and save energy, care for result, accept feedback and self regulation, use and appreciate gifts of nature, waste is food, design from pattern to detail, multi functionality, choose small and slow solutions, diversity, take into account the effect of edges and transitions, react to changes.
‘ A system of design that provides all of the needs for humanity in a way that benefits the environment ‘ Geoff Lawton
Permaculture integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in various natural systems. Permaculture studies and applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development. Permaculture Research Institute, permaculturenews.org